BISHKEK. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Elizabeth Jones held talks today in Bishkek with Kyrgyzstan's President Askar Akayev, Deputy Prime Minister Joomart Otorbaev, Foreign Minister Askar Aitmatov, lawmakers and other officials, and representatives of independent mass media in Kyrgyzstan. The talks were focused on U.S.-Kyrgyz cooperation in the war against international terrorism, the progress of democratic and economic reforms in Kyrgyzstan and human rights issues.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Elizabeth Jones told journalists today that U.S. troops stationed in Kyrgyzstan are serving to maintain stability in Afghanistan. According to her, the troops will n-o-t be used for any potential operations against Iraq: "The (Ganci) air base that U.S. forces use at Manas (Bishkek's airport) is there for Operation Enduring Freedom. What that means is, it is used for Afghanistan, and it will continue to be used for Afghanistan as the coalition forces move from combat operations to stability operations in Afghanistan." About 2,000 U.S.-led coalition troops operate from a base adjacent to Manas airport, near Bishkek.
Jones also said Kyrgyz citizens must have their rights protected by an independent judiciary and that the government must comply with international norms as it reforms its laws: "In all of our discussions, what we try to do is to underscore the importance of constitutional reforms adhering to international norms so that the Kyrgyz Republic can continue to be seen as a democratic society."
She stressed on the U.S. approach towards the events in Kyrgyzstan: "What the United States has been discussing with members of the (Kyrgyz) government, with the parliament, with members of NGOs, with free media, is the importance of assuring firm participatory democracy in Kyrgyzstan."
Kyrgyzstan is holding a constitutional referendum on Sunday, February 2, 2003. The vote is being held only 20 days after it was announced, and the United States is concerned that authorities are rushing the process.